“It’s the best feeling ever. I’m so happy,” said Nikola Janekova, who scored the game-winning goal to help her team write Slovak hockey history.
“For me and my team it was a very hard game but we did it and I’m proud of us. We were stronger than them. They scored the first goal but we didn’t give up scored our goals.”
It is also the first time ever Slovakia finishes ahead of Switzerland in women’s ice hockey. Since the start of the Women’s World Championship in 1990 Switzerland has always been ranked better than Slovakia, whether it was at the Worlds, the Olympics or the U18 Women’s Worlds. However, the teams were close some weeks ago when Switzerland had to overcome host Slovakia in the best-of-three relegation round at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship to maintain at the top level.
This time the game was with players two years younger and on Swiss ice but with the Slovaks writing history. The Slovaks outshot Switzerland, who had captain Alina Marti and Elena Gaberell sidelined, 23-12 but it was a tight battle from the beginning until the end.
The Slovaks outshot the Swiss 8-3 in a scoreless first period even though dangerous opportunities were scarce commodity on either side. Laura Medvidova in the Slovak net and Margaux Favre on the Swiss side didn’t get the real challenge yet.
That changed in the second period. At 3:38 Swiss defender Nina Harju sent a high diagonal shot from the left side of the blue line to the Slovak net that went through traffic and lost height to beat Medvidova top shelf on the glove side. The puck’s way almost reminded of a highlight-reel free kick in football.
However, the Swiss wouldn’t be able to enjoy the lead for too long. Seven minutes later Nina Hudakova tied the game for Slovakia after Favre had blocked a shot from Zuzana Dobiasova.
“Words cannot explain. I feel amazing, it doesn’t depend on who scored the goal but that we needed to win,” said Hudakova. “(After going down 1-0) Our coach told us that we should keep skating and do our best to win the game.”
And they did. Only 83 seconds later during a power play another distance shot went in when Nikola Janekova sent off a shot to the near corner.
“I told the team to just keep playing our game, keep skating and do the best we can,” said Slovak captain Barbora Kapicakova.
“Words cannot explain, it feels amazing to play in this tournament and also in the 3-on-3. I’m also very tired but will definitely sleep with this medal around my neck.”
Slovakia remained in charge of the game also in the third period and didn’t give the Swiss too many scoring opportunities. They managed to withstand the increasing Swiss pressure in the dying minutes of the game and won 2-1 for the historic bronze medals.